Feeds

Is it true my body is not entirely alive?

The dead bits that keep us kicking

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

So you think you’re all alive? Think again. As strange as it may seem, the human body is not entirely "alive". A small part of us is not alive, never has been, and never will be. Ironically, what's not alive is vital to what is.

Ninety-six per cent of the human body is alive. This part is composed of living, "organic elements" present in many different forms. DNA, RNA proteins, lipids, and sugars are all composed of primarily oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. In addition, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as other small molecules are involved in these elements. The proportions are oxygen (65 per cent), carbon (18.5 per cent), hydrogen (9.5 per cent), and nitrogen (3.2 per cent).

The remaining 3.8 per cent of the human body is technically composed of non-living, "non-organic elements" in the form of salts. Although their quantities are fairly miniscule, they are absolutely critical for the maintenance of the body's structure and smooth working order. For example, calcium is a major component of bones and teeth. Potassium keeps the heart beating evenly and regularly. Iron is necessary for the movement of oxygen by red blood cells.

The breakdown of this 3.8 per cent consists of calcium (1.5 per cent), phosphorus (1.0 per cent), potassium (0.4 per cent), sulphur (0.3 percent), chlorine (0.2 per cent), sodium (0.2 per cent), iodine (0.1 per cent), iron (0.1 per cent), and magnesium (0.1 per cent). The remaining 0.5 per cent is composed of trace elements, including chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, tin, vanadium, and zinc.

Some of these trace elements are part of critical body enzymes. Without these enzymes we’d die and all of our body wouldn't be alive.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.